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Audience in Delhi openly laughs as Lavrov says Ukraine war ‘launched against’ Russia

Russia’s long-standing foreign minister Sergei Lavrov provoked open laughter from the audience at an international conference in India after he falsely claimed that his home country was a victim of Ukrainian aggression.

Mr Lavrov was responding to a question from the audience at the Raisina Dialogue 2023 series in New Delhi when the 72-year-old made the statement.

“How has the war affected Russia’s strategy on energy, and will it mark a privilege toward Asia? And if it does, how is India going to feature in it?” asked a member of the audience.

“You know, the war, which we are trying to stop, which was launched against us, using the...” Mr Lavrov began, before loud laughter cut through his claim.

“... The Ukrainian people, uh, of course, influenced...” Mr Lavrov continued with a straight face, video footage of the exchange shows. The audience can be heard laughing again, along with a groan of “Come on!” from one of its members. “... the policy of Russia, including energy policy,” Mr Lavrov concludes.

“And the blunt way to describe what changed: we would not any more rely on any partners in the West. We would not allow them to blow the pipelines again,” he continues.

Contrary to Mr Lavrov’s claim, Russian president Vladimir Putin launched an unprovoked attack on Ukraine on 24 February last year, in what he called a “special military operation” in the country.

“The responsibility for the possible continuation of the bloodshed will lie entirely on the conscience of Ukraine’s ruling regime,” Mr Putin said at the time.

India, which has close and historic defence and diplomatic ties with Russia, has become one of the major markets for Russian crude oil as it snapped up the product at a discounted rate while European nations imposed sanctions on Russian energy.

India and China are currently the largest buyers of Russian crude oil, as the G7 group of major economies imposed a price cap on Russian oil last year.

Mr Lavrov also tore into the US, and said Moscow “will not let the West blow up gas pipelines again”, referring to the Kremlin’s accusation that Western countries were responsible for the sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines in September.

His response to questions about the “double standards” of Western interventions in sovereign nations drew applause from the Delhi audience as well.

“Have you been interested in these years [in] what is going on in Iraq, what is going on in Afghanistan?” he asked his interviewer, Sunjoy Joshi, the chair of Indian think tank the Observer Research Foundation.

“[You] believe that the United States has the right to declare a threat to its national interest, any place on earth, like they did in Yugoslavia, in Iraq, in Libya, in Syria... and you don’t ask them any questions?”